HomeWordPressWhat Is CDN Server & Why WordPress Sites Need Them

What Is CDN Server & Why WordPress Sites Need Them

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You know that WordPress Developers use several tools/techniques to improve website performance. Content Delivery Network or CDN is one more of them. This article will help you understand what is CDN server and the associated details.

What is a CDN?

CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. It is a set of interconnected servers hosted in different geographical regions. The purpose of this network of servers is to improve the speed of content delivery to users. This is from the closest network location avoiding trips to the WordPress server. The cached version of the requested content is delivered from data centers close to the end user.

It is also known as a Content Distribution Network. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) store webpages, pictures, and videos on proxy servers. The servers will be close to your geolocation. It means you can easily do many different things, like watch a movie or shop online. You can do it without waiting for the content to load from the original source server.

It is time-consuming and resource-heavy to deliver rich content from a single server. Especially true when users are global in nature. That’s where CDNs play a crucial role in delivering data. These days data includes text, graphics, software code, and live media.

Example

An online visitor from London may access a news website like the New York Times. The origin server is hosted in the US, but cached content is most likely served through a local UK server. This localized content delivery is more efficient. The other alternative is not a great idea. i.e., the visitor’s requests and the server responses travel the entire expanse of the Atlantic.

Content Delivery Servers
Content Delivery Servers Image source: Wikipedia

What are the benefits of a CDN?

Technical Benefits

  1. Better Performance: This is a clear benefit. The internet was not actually designed to send rich content from a single server. Making all types of content available at the network edge makes a dramatic difference.
  2. Increased Security: CDNs prevent distributed denial-of-service DDoS attacks. They also support Data Encryption and ensure that they maintain powerful Firewalls.
  3. Limitless Scalability: CDNs can help address seasonal or temporary load balancing servers. For example, during events like NFL game nights or Black Friday shopping. Globally distributed content delivery means no bottleneck at a single server location.
  4. Reducing Bandwidth costs: CDNs optimize network infrastructure expenditure. They do it by diverting traffic flow from the primary server to CDN’s servers. For example, when the CDN has cached content, there is no need to make network trips to the WordPress server. You can reduce bandwidth consumption with this approach.

Customer Benefits

  1. Increased Availability: CDNs are great for managing large amounts of traffic. They avoid network issues at the WordPress server. This spread of content ensures high availability of content and redundancy.
  2. End-user Analytics: CDN can collect a wealth of data related to end-users. Data collected is connectivity, device types, core web vitals, and global online preferences. This end-user data can be helpful in equipping customers with valuable insights.
  3. Better Customer retention: CDNs improve end-user experiences. Great user experience impacts the reduction in abandonment rates and increased ad impressions. The improved conversion results in strengthened loyalty.

End users are usually unaware that a sophisticated CDN is helping them get what they need. This technology works in the background, providing significant user advantages. Users do not have to make any extra effort!

User experience improved due to CDN
User experience improved due to CDN

What is CDN server, and how does a CDN work?

A CDN is a programmed collection of interconnected servers. These servers deliver content in the most efficient, dependable, and secure way. A CDN service provider will place servers at critical points. These points are between many networks to amplify speed and connectivity.

Points of Presence (PoPs)

The aim is to reduce the distance between you and the requested content. CDN stores a cached version of the original content at many geographical locations. These locations are called Points of Presence (PoPs). Caching servers are the building blocks for PoPs responsible for quickly delivering content. Online visitors nearest to them are the beneficiaries.

There are situations where the cache doesn’t already have the content. CDNs rely on their programmed understanding of intelligent connections to handle such requests. Complex technologies to resolve delivery issues related to dynamic or uncacheable content. The sophisticated CDNs also decide which content to send to which device.

See this quick video to understand this concept.

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

CDN Caching

It makes sense to stash frequently accessed copies of files, videos, images, etc., in a cache. This is often referred to as a short-term storage space. In a literal sense too, a cache is any short-term storage space. But it is usually referred to in Web technologies and refers to copies of files.

A CDN server’s content stored in proxy servers is nearer to the end users than the origin servers. When a user requests content from a website, the CDN gets it from the WordPress server. This content is then saved as a temporary backup for later requests. It will remain stored and served from the CDN cache. It is for as long as the users keep requesting this cached content.

Objective metrics can measure CDN Performance
Objective metrics can measure CDN Performance

How to measure CDN performance?

There are two popular approaches to measuring CDN performance. They are Real User Monitoring (RUM) and Synthetic Monitoring. RUM measures how end users interact with a web application in the real world. Synthetic Monitoring involves generating requests using external agents. These agents will simulate high volumes of web traffic.

Several third-party tools are available to gather metrics for CDN performance analysis. First, ensure that you understand the best practices for measuring CDN performance. They will then help you make use of the performance measurement tools effectively. You may want to try the free trial at Uptrends to get a feel of CDN Performance Check reports.

Cache Hit Ratio

The Cache Hit Ratio is another vital CDN performance metric. This ratio measures the number of content requests a cache can successfully fulfill. The content requests are compared to the total requests it receives. The higher the Cache Hit Ratio, the better the CDN performance.

What is CDN used for?

Content Delivery Networks are helpful when end users are geographically spread. It is relevant where they must deliver rich media content like HD videos, graphics, or games.

As businesses rapidly go online, over half of all web traffic is now facilitated by CDNs. Moreover, the proportion is steadily increasing year after year.

A few of these examples will help you get the drift:

  1. News content-owning organizations need to optimize the page loading times, delivery of static and dynamic content. They also use a lot of compressed images.
  2. An e-commerce company with globally spread visitors deploys CDNs. With CDNs, they ensure content is effectively delivered.
  3. Network providers can reduce customer turnover and promote the growth of supplementary services. They do this by decreasing the amount of traffic on their core network.
  4. Connected Home Automation solution providers need a quick turnaround of real-time data. They also need functionality from the Network Edge.

It is no surprise that having WordPress content served from the closest location is a must-have for top web hosts. So, if your online visitors are from – Europe, North America, Asia, or beyond – they’ll enjoy smooth, fast speeds.

CDN service providers for WordPress

You can assess the CDN service providers across several factors. Some of these factors are

  • Ease of setup
  • Performance of their optimization tools
  • Geographic presence
  • Security tools deployed
  • Low latency
  • Intelligent analytics tools
  • Pricing plans

Listed below are the 10 popular service providers, with each of them having its plans and pros/cons:

  1. Cloudflare
  2. Sucuri
  3. BunnyCDN
  4. KeyCDN
  5. Stackpath
  6. Akamai CDN
  7. Amazon CloudFront / AWS CDN
  8. Azure CDN
  9. Verizon Edgecast
  10. Google CDN

Cloudflare and Verizon position themselves with value-added services, like DDoS or WAFs. Others, like Azure CDN, offer CDN services as one of the broader cloud services. You can check my recommendation of the five best CDN for WordPress.

CDN Service Provider History

In 1998, Akamai created history by launching the world’s first CDN. Their groundbreaking technologies have today become the basis of modern CDNs. But, First-generation CDNs mainly concentrated on static content. For example, software downloads, audio, and video streaming.

With the rise of cloud and mobile computing, the second wave of CDN services became relevant. This allowed the rapid delivery of intricate dynamic multimedia and web content. As a result, the use of the internet increased. And so did the number of CDN providers and the services they provided.

CDN is for everybody

You can explore a free CDN without inputting payment details or signing a contract. It is not just for large corporations. Small developers leverage it to speed up content delivery from WordPress sites. Setting up the essential services takes less than ten minutes. Choosing the right plan will be well worth the time and money. Increased traffic and decreased bounce rates will be the reward.

Conclusion – do I need a CDN for my website?

Content Delivery Networks are a great way to improve website performance & user experience. There are many service providers to choose from, each with its pros and cons. It’s essential to research and find the right provider for you. You can improve website performance, security, and global customer experience with a CDN.

I would love to know about your experience with CDN in the comments.

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Prashant Shetty
Prashant Shetty
Prashant is a Technology Industry Veteran with 20+ years of experience in the field. He loves reading, music, and blogging about technology in the context of Life. He craves for a cup of sugarless black masala tea and is a religious runner.

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